HomeLocal News

TWRA: Angler reels in alligator at least 3 feet long from East Tennessee lake

(Photo Credit: WBIR) From WBIR/News 10 in Knoxville: The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said it received a call Monday afternoon about an angler

(Photo Credit: WBIR)

From WBIR/News 10 in Knoxville: The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said it received a call Monday afternoon about an angler who caught an alligator in Dotson Creek, on Norris Lake.


It said Rick Roberts, the Union County Wildlife Officer, responded and went to the scene. The TWRA said the angler had the alligator pinned to the ground when Roberts arrived, holding the alligator behind its head. The angler told Roberts that he caught it on swim bait while fishing on the lake.


“Officer Roberts thought he was joking. And the guy said, ‘No, I’m serious,'”  said Matthew Cameron, a spokesperson with the TWRA.


Roberts arrived at Datsun Creek on the lake, which is just above the Highway 33 bridge. The angler had the gator pinned to the ground, and at first, Roberts suspected it was a caiman.


“He did some research and the best of his knowledge, he says it was an alligator. We’ve had several other people look at it, and we believe it to be an actual alligator,” Cameron said.


Justin Wyrick, 16, said he caught the alligator. He was at the lake to catch some bass.


“I threw my bait in there and it, it turned. Like, I didn’t expect it to be an alligator,” he said. “I fought it for, like, 30 minutes, and I got it out to the bank.”


TWRA said it was between 3 feet and 4 feet long. Wildlife officers took it to the Little Ponderosa Zoo in Anderson County.


Wildlife officers said they believe someone brought the gator in from another state and turned it loose into Norris Lake.


“While the origin of the alligator is unclear, it is evident that it was being illegally held in captivity and possibly released into Norris Lake,” Cameron said. “TWRA would like to remind the public that it’s illegal to possess an alligator in Tennessee and furthermore, releasing them into the wild poses safety and biological threats to humans and the ecosystem.”


Cameron said Little Ponderosa Zoo doesn’t normally house alligators, so the zoo is holding it temporarily until they can find a permanent home for it.


The Norris Lake alligator is being kept at Little Ponderosa Zoo.

The TWRA said alligators are considered a Class 1 wildlife species, which are species considered inherently dangerous to people. These animals can only legally be possessed by permitted exhibitors or commercial propagators in Tennessee. People also need a permit to obtain Class 2 animals.

“We try to manage our wildlife responsibly here in Tennessee. We don’t need inherently dangerous animals loose in the wild out there that are threatening to humans and a threat to our native wildlife species. So, just you know, please don’t do that,” Cameron said.


People in East Tennessee were captivated by news of the Norris Lake alligator, much like the legends of the Knoxville Tiger. Unlike the “tiger,” this gator was the real deal — but Maynardville Mayor Ty Blakely joked there may be other bizarre creatures lurking out there.


“Y’all just wait till people find out that we’re hiding Big Foot at Big Ridge State Park. I don’t think Ponderosa Zoo will take Ole Hairy,” he said.